Was asked about secondary dominants recently. Also about secondary extended dominants.

From a bit of research, it seems there are two views on what the latter are. Could be extended (dominant) chords - as in 9ths, 11ths, 13ths, with/out alterations. Usually in root position, with notes expanding past the octave. Or - dominant chords which move to another dominant , as in key C, the A7 that moves to D7.

I can understand extended chords as such, and also extended chord sequences, which the second definition nods towards. but the two definitions just don't appear to align.

I guess in the latter, key C, A7 going to Dm7 wouldn't qualify as an extended secondary (secondary extended?) chord. Any thoughts?

3 Answers 3


Yes, we know what a Secondary Dominant is. There seems to be an alternative name - Extended Dominant. Which is confusing, due to the more usual meaning of an Extended chord - 9ths and 13ths etc. So better to stick with Secondary Dominant I think!

I've never heard of an Extended Secondary Dominant. The references I can find to that term are queries rather than definitions. So I guess we can't count it as a standard term. If someone uses it, check what HE thinks it means!

An associated question. In Dm7, G7, C is the first chord a Secondary Dominant? Or must it be D7, G7, C to qualify? If Bm7b5, E7, Am7, Dm7, G7, C (or any other mix of minor and major 7 chords) isn't a string of Secondary Dominants, it's something darn close! Maybe no leading note and tritone, but a definite dominant function. So what do we call it?

  • 2
    In regards to your last sentence, I would just call it a circle of fifths. A "secondary" (or "applied") dominant, in my opinion, specifically suggests chromaticism that makes it a dominant-functioning chord. Thus the only true secondary dominant in your final sentence is the E7.
    – Richard
    Dec 10, 2020 at 20:15
  • I would tend to agree; when I read the title, I interpreted it as chord extensions on dominants that happen to also serve the role of secondary dominant in a key center.
    – user45266
    Dec 10, 2020 at 20:15

I think you already have the answer in your question.

In something like C: A7 D7 G7 C the secondary dominant "extend" back in the progression, but this kind of thing has a clear name: harmonic sequence.

Some people use the term backcycling.

Both just seem to be terms people have coined, because they don't know a (basic) term like harmonic sequence.

So, someone seems to be skipping over two existing terms and coining a new one.


Berklee College of Music uses the term "Extended Dominants" in their harmony curriculum.

Extended Dominants: A series of dominants without a direct key relationship, each one resolving down a fifth to the next.

source: https://college.berklee.edu/core/glossary.html

  • So, in key C, where D7 is present, but doesn't go directly to G/G7, that D7 won't be an 'extended dominant'?
    – Tim
    Jun 20, 2021 at 6:01
  • Are you thinking of something like the A section to Take The A Train? I would not call that D7 an extended dominant or a secondary dominant, but some do call it a secondary dominant. Unless it sounds like it "wants" to resolve down a 5th or half step, I just call it "II7"
    – Rob Ewing
    Jun 21, 2021 at 22:14

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